Book review: The Astonishing Color of After

Dear friends,

This book is a journey into imagination and emotion.  I’m going to give “trigger warnings” for depression, suicide, and mental illness.  If you have raw feelings about those issues, you may wish to skip this one.  Aside from that, it’s a magical tale about processing loss and moving on.


The main character and narrator, a high school student named Leigh, is an artist who sees color in all of life’s experiences.  An act of kindness may have a lavender hue, or desire might be bright orange.  When we meet Leigh, much of the color has gone out of her life, as she is working to process the loss of her mother, become closer to her distant father, and grapple with her romantic feelings for her best friend.

To resolve these problems, Leigh must revisit her mother’s past, and discover the people and experiences that shaped her family (and by extension, herself).  Leigh is accompanied on her journey by a red bird, and imagines that it might be her mother in another form.  Or is she just seeing things that aren’t there?

While this is classified as a “young adult” or “teen” novel, the deep dive into grief and recovery resonated with me.  While the story is told from the point of view of a high school girl, her emotions and thoughts would be relatable to just about everyone.  The writing is lovely, and I enjoyed the use of color as metaphor for different states of feeling.

It’s on the long-ish side, but an absorbing read.  Recommended.

Winnie and the Professor

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